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People Are Stealing Legos. Here's Why

French police arrested suspected Lego thieves. And last month, a man in Oregon was arrested after local police suspected he stole $7,500 worth of Lego toy sets.
French police arrested suspected Lego thieves. And last month, a man in Oregon was arrested after local police suspected he stole $7,500 worth of Lego toy sets.

Lego larceny may be on the rise.

French police have been investigating an international ring of toy thieves with a particular affinity for the colorful, interlocking bricks, according to a recent report from The Guardian.

In this case, three suspects were caught taking boxes of Legos from a toy shop near Paris, with the goal of selling them in Poland, according to Le Parisien.

And it's not just Europe. Lego robberies have happened in the United States as well. Last month, a man in Oregon was arrested after local police suspected he stole $7,500 worth of Lego toy sets.

There's a lot of money in Legos. Lego sets come out in limited editions and they soon become collectors' items.

There might even be a whole black market for the bricks, Lego specialist Gerben van IJken tells Scott Simon on Weekend Edition.

"Well, that's very difficult to prove that there's a black market. However, there is an enormous amount of collectors out there who are missing out on certain sets right now and are willing to pay a lot of money for these sets," he says.

Van IJken is an auctioneer at an auction website for collectibles. He says the most valuable and sought-after sets are those in their original packaging, not opened yet.

For example — Lego Café Corner, a set released in 2007 for about $150, can nowadays run up to $3,000 if kept in its original condition, van IJken says.

Other sets routinely fetch thousands of dollars in online marketplaces. Some sellers are asking for more than $3,500 for an unopened set of the Lego Millennium Falcon.

Just like almost everything else in the world, the pandemic could be a driving force behind this phenomenon.

"Especially during the lockdown period, as we are in right now — it's still extremely popular," van IJken adds. "And Lego sales are still extremely high, not only in the Lego Company itself but on our platform too. We saw a 100% rise in sales over the past year."

Peter Breslow and Kitty Eisele produced and edited the audio version of this story.

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